Rahul Johri #MeToo case: Inquiry committee slammed for scaring complainants
Aditya Verma, who has sought to testify in front of the committee, which is looking into the sexual harassment case against Rahul Johri, has slammed the committee’primary response in the case
Aditya Verma, who has sought to testify in front of an independent enquiry committee, which is looking into the sexual harassment case against Rahul Johri, has slammed the committee’s primary response in the case. Aditya Verma is a petitioner in the 2013 Indian Premier League Corruption case.
According to a report in ESPN, the independent committee is trying to scare away complainants, Verma said. Leading women's rights lawyers in India agree with Verma. They have stated that the language used by the committee will "dissuade and discourage people from coming forward".
The independent enquiry committee was formed to investigate the allegations of sexual misconduct against the BCCI's CEO Rahul Johri. Earlier Verma had written a letter to CoA accusing it of covering up a previous complaint of alleged sexual harassment against Johri by an employee of BCCI. The complaint was never acknowledged by CoA. Now, former Mumbai captain Shishir Hattangadi has also offered to help out with the complaint against Johri that was raised through Twitter in October.
Over the next two days, the committee will study the material it receives and then call people it “considers necessary to appear and depose”. It is understood that if the committee seeks more time, the CoA will be willing to extend the time frame to complete the probe.
The committee in an email, in a response to the messages emails from Verma and Hattangadi, said, "At the outset we expect from you to demonstrate your bona fides and locus standi to put forth your statement, material before the committee." ESPNcricinfo, which has seen this email, stated that the committee goes on to ask of the complainants: "Are you friend/guardian, close relative, husband of the alleged sexually harassed lady or woman, employee of BCCI or a visitor to the premises office or in some way associated with the affairs of BCCI? How are you connected with the subject matter?"
According to a report in ESPN, Verma in his response to that email, has objected to both the language used and the concept of locus standi (as defined by the Cambridge dictionary, locus standi is the right or ability to bring a legal action to a court of law or to appear in a court). He has also pointed out that a member of the independent committee, Veena Gowda, had been excluded from the mail sent by the committee
"This committee needs to appreciate the fact that the principle of locus standi does not stand the test of public interest," Verma wrote, referring to earlier Supreme Court rulings that have found the BCCI to be "discharging public functions".
"The message that your email carries seems to be one to scare away complainants rather than to make it conducive for them to complain about being harassed. It lacks the basic sensitivity required to deal with such situations,” wrote Verma.
Lawyer, researcher and human and women's rights activist Vrinda Grover said "The communication of the committee should encourage people to come forward because the probe is against a very powerful, high-profile man. The tone and tonality should not dissuade or frighten the person putting the statement forward. The way this [email] is crafted, the presumption is that I am a motivated person if I am giving a statement out. The presumption should be otherwise, because I am not the one you are inquiring into.”
"I would go to the extent of saying that they [the committee] should be asking that person, 'Would you want us to provide you confidentiality? Do you apprehend any retaliation? Do you need any support?' That is how you encourage witnesses.
The committee had stated that November 10, i.e today, is the last date for people, within or outside BCCI to reach out to the inquiry committee on the e-mail address provided (email@example.com).
Over the next two days, the committee said it would study the material received and then call people it "considers necessary to appear and depose". It is understood that if the committee seeks more time, the CoA will be willing to extend the time frame to complete the probe.
The panel set up by the COA comprises former Allahabad High Court judge Justice Rakesh Sharma, who has been named chairman, Delhi Commission for Women chairperson Barkha Singh and former CBI Director PC Sharma.